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Win Tickets to Barbara Morgenstern
From her collaborations with Pole's Stefan Betke and Robert Lippok of To Rococo Rot, to her own solid body of work on Gudrun Gut's Monika Enterprises, Barbara Morgenstern has been one of the more intriguing figures to come out of Berlin's music scene of the past ten years. The German producer will be making a rare appearance next Wednesday, October 8th, at Galapagos Art Space's new location in DUMBO, and Other Music has two pairs of tickets to give away! To enter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be notifying the two winners on Monday.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8
GALAPAGOS ART SPACE: 16 Main Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn
This Week's Free Song Download
Legendary Pink Dots
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Free song download of "Rainbows Too?," from the new Legendary Pink Dots record (out October 7, on ROIR). The British, but Amsterdam-based, apocalyptic masters return with Plutonium Blonde, an album that contains all the ingredients which has made the band so great over the years; a unique psychedelic/industrial approach, pop-based song structures, relentless experimentalism, and vocalist Edward Ka-Spel's clever cynicism. Going on 28 years, the Pink Dots don't seem to be losing any steam whatsoever.
This Week's Featured Downloads
Imbalance Computer Music
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Monolake's first collection of EPs for Chain Reaction (a/k/a their first album) remastered and reissued on their own label. These have been out of print for ages to the point of misleading many to believe that Monolake have only been redoing the same dubby techno house album for the last seven years or so with occasional forays into drum and bass. Alas, it's not true! Upon hearing it again, I've come to the conclusion that these tracks have just been curing in their wooden casks for all this time. They've become another animal altogether. Most techno of the mid to late 90s onward, including later Monolake releases, are decidedly more "synthetic" sounding than this stuff. There is a strong sense of place/atmosphere within these tracks. The remastering (by Rashad Becker) has done a great service by manicuring the click-iness and bringing out the damp/dank, wet-lizard-on-a-palm-frond atmosphere. (Kudos to Henke, Behles and Becker for doing it RIGHT!) I've said the same, jungle atmosphere-wise, about Gas' Pop album, but in comparison, Pop is the jungle on a high definition TV, while Monolake has the analog advantage that gives it more of a sense of "being there." (Also, while Gas is about the layers, Hongkong is about the sounds plus absolutely skillful composition and arrangement.) In contrast to the jungle vibe, the use of field recordings from Hong Kong and Guangzhou also give the tracks an urban rhythmic pulse. This touchstone was "minimal" for its day, but despite its depth and economy, there is PLENTY going on -- like most Basic Channel/Chain Reaction releases.
On "Cyan," birdcalls ebb and flow throughout, the beat sounding like a trudge through underbrush, synth melodies bubble up here and there while we are thrown back into the imagery with the occasional sound of a huge wet tropical fern being brushed out of the way. Cuts like "Lantau," with its medium-speed, dubby, tropical bounce, remind us of a time when tracks didn't have to be 120 BPMs or more to be considered DJ-friendly. The quality of the song makes the convention seem even more foolish than it already is. Most importantly, hearing these cuts point out the current absence of tracks with a visual quality and distinct character. Sure, there was less competition then and more ground still to be explored -- but these tracks are a good example of how it can be done simply and effectively. This stuff, Monolake's best IMO, resurrects the notion of techno's ability as a medium to create space. In Michael Klausman terms: this is like the techno version of the Hired Hand soundtrack or Near Young Tatami Bear Rug reissues. Essential!!
Stephen John Kalinich
A World of Peace Must Come
Light in the Attic
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There are enough books and articles written about the Beach Boys to convince us we've got their whole story pretty locked down. Harmonies, hangin' with Manson, piano in the sandbox, etc. etc.... So when an amazing footnote like this album from Stephen John Kalinich pops up, it's an interesting angle that both obscures the story and heightens the myth at once. Especially when it's a footnote as genuinely weird as this one. Kalinich was one of many young hippies who traveled west to find himself in the late sixties, but one of the very few who ended up hooking up with Beach Boys sub-label Brother Records. Becoming pally with the Wilson brothers, he began first working with Dennis Wilson on Friends-era songs like "Be Still" and "Little Bird." Eventually Kalinich ended up recording his own album at Brian Wilson's home studio in 1969. The result was some unthinkably psychedelic material, but not in the sense we're used to. A World of Peace Must Come is a collection of almost-songs and insane spoken-word jags. Kalinich rails and expounds about his love of America and the universal peace he wants through pitch shifters and tape delays, off-kilter canned music sometimes playing in the background. Fragmental Beach Boys-y tunes or rushed acoustic folk songs are also present (an acetate-hiss-laden demo of a really amazing song called "Leaves Of Grass" stands out), but the poetry is the real mind-bending stuff. While he's spouting off about peace and love, an uneasy sense rushes over you. Maybe because you get the feeling that all the peace and love in the world might not be enough for this young man, stumbling over words, confused, bewildered and speaking on sweet themes almost venomously. A completely fascinating snapshot of two things at once; a relatively unknown songwriter/wordsmith with a strange yet powerful talent, and another page to the Beach Boys saga that may never stop unfolding.
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A folk singer with a nasal, bizarrely haunting voice and a fondness for the tiple (a ten-stringed instrument that doesn't sound unlike a ukelele), Ed Askew cut one record for the ESP-Disk label in 1969 that almost instantly sealed his reputation as an outsider folkie par excellence. Though hardly a best-seller in its own time, Askew's Ask the Unicorn became a bit of a leftfield classic as the years passed, his songs possessed with an unassuming strength and power that managed to transcend the hordes of other folkies with whom he shared New York City's landscape at that point. And while many thought Askew faded to black after that debut, rumors began to circulate that he had actually cut another album that remained unreleased. Available to the public after over three decades in mothballs, Little Eyes is that long sought after sophomore release, one that builds upon the majesty of his debut with a set of songs that easily bests that album. Beginning with the harmonica laced titled track, Askew here waltzes through ten songs of triumphant sorrow, be it in the ruminations of the winding "Little Infinite Love Song" or the near exultant "City of Glass." More confident and assured than on his still stunning debut, Askew's Little Eyes could have catapulted him beyond cult status, had it only existed in some form other than a scratchy acetate (from which this reissue was pulled, warts and all) for all those years. Even still, it's great to hear these songs now, to hear just how much of an overlooked talent Ed Askew really was.
Spirits to Bite Our Ears: The Singles Collection 1977-1986
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Thomas Mapfumo, the Lion of Africa, a singer for the politically disenfranchised and a standard bearer for those who would carry on and reinvent the traditional musics of his people. Mapfumo came of age as an artist during the acrimonious civil war that would ultimately turn Rhodesia into Zimbabwe, and which pitted its white minority rulers against its largely oppressed black majority. Born in the countryside in the late-'40s, Mapfumo as a young man was both keenly interested in the traditional Shona music with which he grew up, as well as the American rock and roll and soul, and cosmopolitan African jazz that he was able to tune into on his radio. As racial tension continued to swell throughout the '60s, Mapfumo worked his way through a series of different bands that would ultimately artistically coalesce into two subsequently important groups, Thomas Mapfumo and the Acid Band, and Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks.
Mapfumo had hit upon the idea of transposing the complex sound patterns produced by the traditional Shona instrument mbira (a handheld thumb piano), into pointillistic electric guitar notes played in complex tandem by two or more players. It was a genius idea, and when first heard you're immediately struck at how original and completely unlike any other electric guitar playing you've ever listened to it is, with an utterly hypnotic quality that's propelled by an ever present shuffle beat. At this point in the mid-'70s, the atmosphere was getting increasingly dire and any association with traditional Shona ways immediately provoked the hostility of Rhodesia's white rulers. Mapufumo defiantly called his new music Chimurenga, the Shona word for struggle, and began releasing a series of 12-inch singles that were adopted whole-heartedly by the guerilla movement, and which frequently contained coded messages for the fighters. Harassment was quickly forthcoming from the authorities and Mapfumo was subsequently imprisoned and used as a pawn in Rhodesia's machinations to retain control of the country.
In 1980, the guerilla forces prevailed and as independence for Zimbabwe was declared, opposition head Robert Mugabe was ushered in as the de facto leader. Mapfumo himself was hailed as a revolutionary hero all over the continent, perhaps second only to Bob Marley, and he began to garner more and more international acclaim throughout the '80s. However, the optimism after independence in his home country was short-lived as Robert Mugabe has turned out to be an iron-fisted dictator who has held a stranglehold around his country's neck for more than 25 years. Naturally, none of this has sat well with Mapfumo's fine sense of justice and he has repeatedly called out Mugabe for his abuses in song after song, leading to the situation we have today where Mapfumo and his family has been forced into exile in Oregon. The only good thing about which is that we now have more opportunities to see him in America, which I urge you to do as he is absolutely incredible to this day. The collection at hand spans the couple of years leading up to independence through 1986, and there is much here that is both optimistic and sorrowful.
14 Dub Blackboard Jungle
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Author and ethnomusicologist, David Katz compiles a choice selection of dubs from one of reggae's self-crowned princes, Lee Perry. Originally released in 1973 in an edition of 300, Blackboard Jungle now gets six additional unreleased tracks (pulled from his Black Ark era). This is a landmark album in dub's history. Smoldering and sweating, dripping reverb and delay create a haze of atmosphere atop the Upsetter's trademark "sinky- beats" (thanks Koen). This selection has been remastered with stereo separation so every cymbal, guitar, snare, cowbell, and shaker is crystal clear, while every bass thump is as solid as a heartbeat. One of the best sounding I've heard in a while. Recommended!
Harold Budd & Clive Wright
A Song for Lost Blossoms
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One of the most influential figures in ambient music, Harold Budd is still going strong and teaming up with guitar player/manipulator Clive Wright here, on "A Song for Lost Blossoms." Budd provides his expert touch, with hazy atmospherics and dreamy keyboards, while Wright wrangles beautiful sounds out of his guitar, using a mass of loops, delays, and an ebow. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect from this collaboration, and exactly as good.
Ted Leo + Pharmacists
Touch and Go Records
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Ted Leo is one of the rare indie-rockers who proudly wears his ideals on his sleeve. This great EP features a track Leo wrote and recorded in the days following this year's Republican National Convention, railing on the violence against lawful protesters. Also includes another outspoken Leo original and a pair of crusty-punk b-side covers. Profits go to Democracy Now! and Food Not Bombs.
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This exciting experimental dance duo, featuring former !!! member John Pugh, seem bent on pushing the famed NYC disco-funk sound, that Pugh and his DFA colleagues helped pioneer, closer to the arty, experimental slash-n-burn aesthetic of their no-wave heroes of old. With their first single "Never Listen to Surf Music Again," the duo created a truly puzzling piece of unhinged dance music. "Crazy, lurching, rhythmic, twitch rock" is how I remember one insightful OM customer describing it. The dubbed-out, organic sounds and Madeline Davy's tripped-out ecstatic screams on "I'm Higggh" reminded me more of the Boredoms than anything that could be described as dance-rock. But it was a truly a much needed breath of fresh air.
Their new single sees Free Blood putting the vocals front and center and the chaos is a bit controlled, but even more challenging sonically. "Parangatang" is probably a bit closer to the exuberant, musicality of !!! and the sing-a-long, handclapping vibe of all your fave DFA hits. It's decidedly more loose, incorporating bits of distorted noise a la MU and a groove propelled by a loose piano riff. "Weekend Condition" is weirder. The rhythm track could easily be mistaken for a Black Dice or Excepter jam if it weren't for John Pugh's disembodied blue-eyed crooning over the top. The track builds nicely into a sticks-n-stones tribal romp, propelled along by the layering of Pugh's voice, and reminds me a bit of TV on the Radio's latest efforts.
In addition, Tim "Love" Lee turns in a bleepy, disco-funk dub take on "Panarangatang" and Scotty and Wes the Mes do a nice job of containing the chaos of "Weekend Condition" and adding some fat live bass to the after-hours groove laid down.
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On Absentee's second album, Dan Michaelson croons like the indie Leonard Cohen, and revels in a romanticism, cutting wit and world-weary sense of wry observation that is not so far removed from Cohen either. The band is loose and dynamic, raw and rocking, and the record is an emotional pop roller-coaster. WITH EXCLUSIVE OM BONUS TRACK "Heathers Golden Shoulder (Acoustic Version)."
Joe Meek presents - Let's Go! Joe Meek's Girls
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Joe Meek's place in music history is somewhat marginalized, but his pioneering work as an independent producer in the U.K. in the '50s and '60s is a key link in the development of pop recording. This compilation of Meek's girls, from groups like the Sharades ("Dumb Head") to solo artists like Glenda Collins, whose excellent "I Lost My Heart at the Fairground" is included, show his ear for pop hooks as well as studio experimentalism. A gem of a collection.